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Shed 'Gandhigiri' approach with Pakistan, Afghan scholars urge India

Sunday March 11, 2012 05:22:40 PM, Sarwar Kashani, IANS

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New Delhi: Thank you, India for helping Afghanistan, but it is time to be aggressive in dealing with Pakistan and assert the "natural role" of a leader in the South Asian region, particularly over the Afghan issue, scholars from the war-torn country say.

The scholars who were in New Delhi to attend a South Asian conference were of the view that India's approach towards Pakistan had been "too soft", and that needed to be changed.

"Balance of power in the South Asian region has shifted long back. India has advanced economically as well as militarily far more than Pakistan. But I don't understand why India is still in the early 80s mentality," said Haroun M. Mir, a US educated Afghanistan analyst who was an aide to the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defence minister

"India has a natural role to play in South Asia and it should assert its role," Mir, the director Afghanistan Centre for Research and Policy Studies, told IANS.

He said this was "particularly true in the context that Pakistan is already in deep trouble due to its internal conflict and palpable political uncertainty".

"Don't make concessions to Pakistan. Enough of Gandhigiri now. You are seriously accepting being slapped again and again in the face," he said, referring to terror strikes, including the 2008 Mumbai attack, in India blamed on Pakistan.

He was of the view that India was "unnecessarily justifying" its $2 billion Afghanistan rebuilding programme. "We don't need to justify everything. You can have bilateral relations with any country."

He said India could contribute "hugely" for stability in the South Asian region, including in Afghanistan.

"I know India cannot send troops to Afghanistan but it can help Afghanistan militarily in terms of providing training and equipments to its fledgling security forces."

The view was shared by another Afghan scholar Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, former journalist and government communication officer, who now heads a government funded think-tank, the Regional Studies Center, in Kabul.

"India's role has been positive and we are truly grateful for that. But we expect more because India is a major power in the region," Liwal said.

"It is only Indian philosophy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend," he said, recalling the saying of 300 century BC Indian scholar Chanakya, the author of ancient Indian political treatise called Arthasastra.

"I am not for a moment suggesting military conflict with Pakistan, but you can fight it out with Pakistan politically and diplomatically. You have the clout in the world to cut Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan.

Liwal said Afghanistan was facing "lots of obstacles from Pakistan and Iran" towards its peace and stability and was looking towards India particularly in the backdrop of US drawing down its troops from the country.

"Physical presence of Indian troops won't be a good idea. But our government may be looking at the idea of getting army training and equipment from India. They are looking at more cooperation with India in social and education sectors and also in security areas."

The two scholars were speaking to IANS on the sidelines of the third edition of the Asian Relations Conference on "Transforming South Asia: Imperatives for action" organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Association of Asian Scholars at Sapru House here.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at




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